Crocodile Tears

Published: October 17 2007


Many think of shedding “crocodile tears” as a way to get sympathy or attention. Now a University of Florida study shows that alligators and crocodiles actually do cry while they eat. But, expert Kent Vliet says they’re not feeling sorry for their prey, they just have some sinus issues.

Vliet: “We think alligators that are excited during a feeding process may be blowing a lot of air through their sinuses and maybe forcing those tears back up into the eye.”

Researchers made the discovery while studying a human condition where some people suffer involuntary tearing while eating. For crocs and gators, the excitement of feeding can prove too invigorating.

Vliet: “The muscles associated with the jaws are also associated with muscles around the eyes. So, the eyes sink into the skull and pop back up. They often close their eyes when they take a bite to protect their eyes. So, they may be incidentally lubricating their eyes at that time as well.”

So gators may cry at more than lost football games.

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